Openings tonight include Nuestras Artistas, a group show of works by nineteen local Latino artists at Museo de las Americas, 861 Santa Fe Dr. The varied exhibit hangs through January 10; call 571-4401. The Museum of Outdoor Arts, 7600 E. Orchard Rd., celebrates the works of its accomplished art-faculty members with a reception and sale from 4 to 7. The show continues through December 31; call 741-3609. Art goes animalistic at Cosmo's Dog Biscuit Bakery, 1224 E. 6th Ave., where works by Sherrie Ingle and Roger Beltrami go on sale to benefit the American Humane Association's Second Chance Fund. Attend the reception tonight from 5 to 8; while you're there, you can pick up some munchable stocking-stuffers for Fido. Call 777-6500. And one of the biggest and best holiday art markets around opens for business tonight from 7 to 9 at the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities, 6901 Wadsworth Blvd., featuring an expanded selection of ceramics, jewelry, artwear and fine art through December 23. Another show, The Surreal West, also opens tonight at the center; for information call 431-3939.
The artful fun continues tomorrow from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Boulder with the annual Souper Bowlder event at First Congregational Church, Broadway and Pine. The hearty benefit soup lunch is served in unique ceramic bowls handmade by local artists; for twelve bucks, you fill your stomach and take home a work of art. Call 444-0558. And if the dabblings of local celebrities are on your holiday plate, A Stroke of Genius, a new paint-your-own pottery shop at 9623-D E. County Line Rd., is hosting an ongoing pre-Christmas Celebrity Pottery Auction. Plates decorated by assorted sports and media figures will be on display and open to bids today through December 20; for details call 792-0672. CORE New Art Space, 1412 Wazee St., offers yet another bidding opportunity when the local artists' co-op throws its yearly benefit silent auction. Affordable artwork, gift certificates and white-elephant novelties will be on the block from 6 to 10 (preview items from noon to 5); call 571-4831.
And that's just the tip of the paintbrush, folks: For more creative shopping ideas, turn the page and check the Events and Galleries sections of the Thrills listings.
String 'em along: Everybody's got his shtick these days, and folk/pop singer-songwriter Dee Carstensen may be no different. But what a shtick she's got: While singing self-penned works about contemporary concerns (or even Jimi Hendrix covers) in a fine, Shawn Colvinesque style, Carstensen accompanies herself on the harp, an instrument she's been learning to handle since she was eight years old. A total pro, the modern-day angel plinks and sings tonight at 8 at the Boulder Theater, 2030 14th St., Boulder; for tickets, $12, call 786-7030.
Light up your life: This year the Grinch won't steal Christmas, but he just might steal the show: The Dr. Seuss-style Scrooge is one of four new giant balloons in this year's Parade of Lights. The Cat in the Hat, a 75-foot-long crocodile and a gigantic gingerbread man will also debut, interspersed among the floats, marching bands and other attractions scheduled to stretch out tonight through the streets of downtown Denver. The annual holiday procession, which sets off from Civic Center at 8 p.m. and follows a route along Tremont, 17th, Arapahoe and 15th streets before making its way back to 14th and Glenarm, is free (to reserve limited grandstand seating, available at the City and County Building for $8 to $12, call 830-TIXS), and it all repeats again tomorrow at 6 p.m. For details, call the Downtown Denver Events Hotline, 478-7878; for information regarding RTD's ParadeRide bus service from seventeen metro-area park-and-ride locations, call 299-6000.
Salon 'do: Local photographer Mark Sink, who likens the independently developing Denver art scene to that of the city of Prague, took a big step toward putting our town on the arts map when he formed The Denver Salon in 1993. The fine-art photographers in this group not only congregate over fine food and drink to share ideas and techniques, but they also band together to stage noteworthy exhibitions. Their latest show opens tonight from 6 to 9 at Rule Modern and Contemporary, 111 Broadway, in conjunction with the monthly Broadway Corridor First Friday event. The salon exhibit continues through January 25; call 777-9473 for gallery hours.
Your Condo guy: Vintage rockabilly and Western swing form the rockin' domain of Ray Condo and His Ricochets, a hardworking, no-frills retro band dedicated to cranking it out on stage like a runaway locomotive. So put on your dancing shoes: Condo and cohorts rip it up tonight at 9th Avenue West, 99 W. 9th Ave. For ticket information call 572-8006.
Green lanterns: Even in the dead of almost winter, the Denver Botanic Gardens has found a way to enchant the crowds. Well after most local flower blossoms have turned in for the season, Blossoms of Light turns the pastoral plots at 1005 York St. into a whole different kind of wonderland. This year's seasonal premiere of the gardens' annual glow in the dark actually begins during daylight hours at a Tree-mendous Kick-off, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the DBG-run Chatfield Arboretum, 8500 Deer Creek Canyon Road, Littleton, where Santa himself will be hanging out and Christmas trees, wreaths and greens will be for sale alongside handmade beeswax candles and other old-fashioned delights. Admission is free; call 973-3705. Then it's on to the main attraction at York Street--animated light displays outdoors and poinsettia plants, gingerbread houses, entertainment, special concerts, kid's craft activities and goodies inside--which will stay ablaze nightly from 6 to 9 through January 4. Admission to Blossoms of Light is $3 to $5 (children five and younger get in free); call 370-8187 for additional information.
In the house: On a weekend running rampant with festive holiday house tours, one of the most charming is A Christmas Tour of Historic Homes in Golden, where a cozy lineup of old-time painted ladies, antique-festooned homes dating from the 1860s to modern times, historic museums and an art market are all part of the route. Tour tickets, available at the Foothills Art Center, Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum and Astor House Museum, are $10 in advance ($12 day of tour); call 278-3557 or 278-7151 for information. In addition, Hampton's Restaurant, at 1518 Washington, will host a $9.95 Christmas brunch; to make reservations, which are required, call 279-8151.
Life is a cabaret: Throughout the year, loyal volunteers and friends donate their time and hard work to the Boulder County AIDS Project, so it's only fitting that they should take time out for a little fun. The annual BCAP Holiday Cabaret and Auction, now in its tenth year, gives those helpers--and the rest of the community--a welcome break with a frivolous evening of cabaret acts and skits, as well as a more serious auction of classy items ranging from Broncos season tix to a week in Palm Springs. The Precision Toolbelt Drill Team, the Colorado Mountain Choir, Devotion and CU-Boulder prof Bud Coleman provide entertainment highlights (all this for only $15 and a can of food). The BCAP celebration begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Boulder Theater, 2030 14th St., Boulder. Call 786-7030 for information and reservations.
Beat generation: Take a deep breath. There you go. Now let it all out. That's it. Get primal at Stella's Drum Circle, a group hand-drumming event, and send your seasonal blues south. Beginners are welcome at the free-for-all rhythm party, which takes place from 8 to 10 tonight at Stella's Coffee Haus, 1476 S. Pearl St. Maybe things do go better with bongos; for information call 750-6732.
Stars in your eyes: The various stages at the Denver Performing Arts Complex are abuzz all month long, filled with dancing sugarplum fairies, Patsy Cline chestnuts, dogged midlife crises and Marley's chain-rattling ghost. Such a cultural constellation wouldn't be complete, though, without a few stars, so the Plex, located at 14th and Curtis streets, has got some of those, too.
In the Space Theatre, the Denver Center Theatre Company imports former Hill Street Blues principal Daniel J. Travanti from Washington, D.C., in an Arena Stage production of Eugene O'Neill's A Touch of the Poet. Travanti heads the cast as Irish patriarch Cornelius Melody in the drama, part of an unfinished historical trilogy playing here through January 10; admission ranges from $27 to $33. And at the Buell Theatre, a grown-up Hayley Mills and Broadway Renaissance man Vee Talmadge pair up in the The King and I, a touring production opening for previews tonight at 6:30. A lavish Thai-inspired set sporting murals, masks, mirrored tiles, gold leaf and a pair of thirty-foot-tall jeweled elephants adds to the show's overall eye-catching radiance; tickets range from $10 to $45 for previews and $25 to $65 during the regular run. For showtimes or to reserve tickets for either show, call 893-4100 or 830-TIXS.
Pint-sized celebrity searchers, meanwhile, will be heading over to McNichols Arena, where 'toon characters Buzz Lightyear and pull-string cowboy Woody do figure eights and more in Toy Story, the latest Walt Disney's World on Ice spectacular. Based on the 1995 animated feature and retaining the hit film's Randy Newman soundtrack and star-quality voiceovers by Tom Hanks and Tim Allen, Toy Story opens today and continues through December 14; for showtimes and tickets, $10.50 to $18.50, call 830-